I love Origins. Being part of a network of creative, missional, innovators who hold a high view of Scripture, passion for evangelism, etc., is a real blessing. I have a lot of respect for those who have put this network together, which helps too.
What are you reading?
Just finished Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God (amazing), and I’m reading Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales and a book called Good Intentions that helps the church navigate some of the negative unintended consequences we sometimes stumble into in our compassion and justice work. Good stuff.
What's on your iPod?
Future of Forestry, Sigur Ros, This Will Destroy You
Loving my Palm Pre
You have a new book out, "Embodying Our Faith." What inspired you to this work?
One of our assumptions when we planted Life was that our best apologetic among postmodern people wouldn’t be our crisp, rational answers to all their questions, but our “embodied apologetic” – the way we lived out our lives in Jesus with one another and with our friends. So we were asking a lot of questions about what this might look like. What would it look like to actually structure a church around this idea of an embodied apologetic? What would happen if we elevated spiritual formation and mission together? If we presented the gospel as becoming apprentices of Jesus and letting him use us in his world? Embodying Our Faith is about what we’ve discovered and how we’re attempting to live it out.
You've talked about building communities that are "revealed by their faithful." What does that mean?
Jesus said the world would know that we are his disciples by the way we love one another. In essence, Jesus gave the world permission to judge whether there is anything to this whole Christianity by looking at us – scary! So for us at Life, that means that we lean heavy into spiritual formation, cultivate an environment that encourages authentic community, and live out our faith in ways that tangibly impact our city. We need to be with Jesus, leaning into his work of transformation and letting him shape us into people who love like he does.
Thoughts on reconciling the chasm between what we'll call "traditional" and "post-modern"?
In my experience, one of the best bridges across that chasm is what missionaries call contextualization – being faithful to the message of Jesus, but allowing our communication of the message and its resulting fruit to take forms that make sense in the host culture. When I am talking to groups of traditionalists I like to talk about this idea out of passages like Acts 17 and 1 Corinthians 9, and I find that once they see how biblical this notion is the conversation changes. It moves us away from questions of what’s wrong with culture and toward questions of how we can best be missionaries to the different cultures around us, be they premodern, modern, or postmodern.
Christian Book Distributors is quoted as saying that your book "Very well may be the most challenging book you read this year.” What is it about Embodying Our Faith that it would garner such a response?
That was a huge compliment! I’d like to think Embodying Our Faith is pretty meaty theologically but it is not difficult to understand, so I think the challenge they had in mind is the change it would involve for many churches. I think we are all pretty invested in approaching church in a way that serves ourselves, and shifting to a mission footing is very challenging. But it’s amazing! I couldn’t imagine going back to another way of living. Our church has been blessed with an impact that is disproportionate to our size and age, including two more churches planted, significant overseas ministry, etc. It’s an adventure.
Biggest challenge facing your church over the next few years?
As lame as it sounds to say, I think our biggest challenge right now is the economy. Our church is young, and as people get married and start families we have a lot of people moving to areas of the country where they can better afford to live. When I was in seminary I never thought I’d find myself praying about the housing market . . .
Thing you're most excited about?
I’m super excited right now about a new approach we’re taking to equip our church for evangelism called HOW. Rather than guilting people into the proverbial once-a-year-Saturday-training-class, we take those who are really ready to go for it and put them in a small group together. They receive training over fourteen weeks, but more importantly they become a learning community, pray with one another for their friends, and learn to make outreach a part of their ordinary lives rather than a separate (and rare) activity. It’s been pretty exciting!
Tim and a host of other creatives will be at The ORIGINS Event in LA July 23-24. Hope to see you there!